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We Are All Connected to This Land

We Are All Connected to This Land by Phyllis Atkins

Artist: Phyllis Atkins
Location: Bear Creek Bridge (8448 King George Boulevard)
Category: Civic collection
Year Installed: 2019

About We Are All Connected to This Land

We Are All Connected to This Land is a contemporary Coast Salish artwork cut from powder-coated red aluminum and attached to the concrete barrier walls of the bridge spanning Bear Creek. The artist’s design features three salmon (male, female, and two-spirited), a sun, an eagle, a moon, and a wolf from left to right, mirrored on the other side.

Salmon are resilient creatures that make an arduous journey to return to their freshwater spawning grounds, such as Bear Creek, to give new life and sustain eagles, bears, wolves, and people.

The wolf represents the teacher and guide of the Kwantlen People while the eagle flying closest to the sun is carrying prayers to the Creator.

The inclusion of Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon contrast day and night and indicate the passage of time.

“From salmon to four-legged animals to winged creatures, I wanted to show how we are all connected to this land,” Atkins says. The title of her artwork also honours the relationship between səmyəmɑʔɬ (Semiahmoo), q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie) and q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen) to this shared and unceded traditional territory.

This design was recommended by a committee of Elders of the Katzie, Kwantlen, and Semiahmoo First Nations. This project is one of a series of initiatives by the City of Surrey to include visual representations of reconciliation on civic facilities and infrastructure.

About the Artist

Phyllis (Qwoy’tic’a) Atkins is a Kwantlen First Nation artist whose name means “I wear the clouds like a blanket” or “Shrouded in clouds.” Her name comes from the Nɬeʔkepmx language and it was given to her by her maternal grandfather Hereditary Chief Anthony Joe of the Shakan Band (Thompson River People). The artist is also part Sto:lo (People of the river).

Atkins has taken oil painting lessons from Barbara Boldt and hand-carved silver jewelry lessons by Master Carver Derek Wilson. In 2005, her and her husband Drew Atkins established their home-based business in Fort Langley, Kʼwyʼiʼyʼe Spring Salmon Studio, where they create both traditional and contemporary Coast Salish art, specializing in custom orders. They have an art gallery just outside of their home and welcome the public to visit by appointment.

Her other public artworks in Surrey include Paddling through the Waves of Change and Returning to the River. She is currently working on a public artwork at the Museum of Surrey titled The Rivers that Connect Us.